Tuesday, 31 March 2009
21. The Jungle Book
The Bare Necessities and I Wanna Be Like You. Do you need any other reason than those to love this film? No, I thought not.
22. This Is Spinal Tap
This one goes up to 11 (ah, d'you see what I did there? Yes, well, it was a bit obvious, wasn't it?). Christopher Guest has gone on to write and direct some great films of his won (Best In Show, A Mighty Wind, Waiting For Guffman, For Your Consideration) but this is the business.
23. Withnail And I
This was another slow burner for me. The first time I watched it, I remember thinking, “Yeah, it’s pretty good but I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.” The more I watched, though, the more I loved it. Plus it helps that I lived a reasonably pub-based lifestyle while a student so it was fairly familiar.
We’re gonna need a bigger boat. 'Nuff said.
I think maybe that I prefer Mallrats overall from Kevin Smith’s oeuvre* but this was one of the films that made me want to go out and be a filmmaker. If he could stick a film on his credit card, why, then so could I!
26. Pulp Fiction
Reservoir Dogs was one of the other films that made me want to be a filmmaker but this is the better film. This is one of those films that I watched so much I got sick of it and then completely forgot about it for ages, only to rediscover it recently and realise that I still loved it.
I remember thinking, “Yeah, this is one of those classics that’ll just turn out to be really dull.” How wrong I was. Plus I lost my virginity while this film was playing. Chicks dig Casablana.
28. Duck Soup
I love anything with Groucho Marx in it – one of my comedy heroes – but this is the best. Non-stop one-liners and some top visual humour (notably the mirror scene with Grouch and Harpo) make this the Marx Brothers film I’ve watched the most.
29. Way Out West
There are a lot of fine Laurel and Hardy films but I’m going to go with this one on the list for the thumb lighter, the constantly falling in the deep bit of the river gag and for the Trail Of The Lonesome Pine.
30. Blazing Saddles
Mel Brooks’ other finest film and, along with Airplane!, one of those comedy films that I can’t remember ever having not seen. Another fine performance from gene Wilder (“little bastard shot me in the ass”)
31. Monty Python's Life Of Brian
Well, we had Holy Grail so it was inevitable this one was going to turn up.
Another fine Terry Gilliam effort with a sterling effort from Michael Palin. It was the first medieval based film I remember watching that looked properly dirty, filthy and grimy – the sort of film that looks like it smells bad.
33. The Pink Panther Strikes Again
If I’m honest, these all start to blur into one a little bit and I have trouble telling them apart. I’m going to go with this one because, after a quick check, this is the one with the “Does your dog bite?” line and Closeau becoming hysterical on laughing gas while his disguise melts.
Ah, an obscure choice here. An animal-based parody of TV sports coverage (obviously, the Olympics specifically), this features the voices of Billy Crystal and Harry Shearer (of Spinal Tap/Simpsons fame) and is great fun. I remember having this taped when we were kids and watching it incessantly.
Scorsese’s finest film and the one that kick-started a bit of an obsession with gangster films back in the day. Although I have a confession to make – I’ve never seen The Godfather Pt II. I know, it’s a shocker. I do actually own it now, though, so it’s on the pile of stuff to watch.
36. Transformers: The Movie ('80s)
The ultimate battle between good and evil. In cartoon robot form. With the voices of Orson Welles, Leonard Nimoy and Eric Idle. It’s a classic. Bah weep grah nah weep ni ni bong.
37. The Dark Knight
It’ll be interesting to see if this one stands the test of time. While I enjoyed Tim Burton’s versions (Joel Schumacher, you can fuck right off), this is probably the closest version to the comics I’ve been reading for the last 16/17 years so that’s why it currently has a place on the list/
38. Time Bandits
Yet more Terry Gilliam. Well, I like his stuff, OK? This is another of those “watched incessantly since we were kids” ones and may go towards explaining why I like my fantasy a bit twisted and warped.
39. The Evil Dead II
Sam Raimi’s finest, in my opinion. This one strikes the right balance between gory horror and slapstick comedy - the first film being too grim and the third just that little bit too silly. The sequence in which Bruce Campbell fights his possessed hand is always a favourite.
40. The Shining
I’m not a big Kubrick fan – 2001 bores the pants off me and A Clockwork Orange left me cold – but I love this one. Justifiably changes the source material to keep it basic and amps up the creepy, claustrophobic feeling perfectly.
Another 20 down. We’re over a third of the way through now. What else is to come? Stay tuned....
* That’s French for eggs. I’m so cultured.
Monday, 30 March 2009
All of which is to say that I’m not going to tell you my favourite film. Nope, instead you are going to get a list of 100 films what I reckon are damn good. This is purely subjective and entirely based upon my own personal enjoyment. It’s also subject to change at any time (particularly when I realise that I’ve forgotten something and decide to change my mind). It’s also in no particular order – just the order that I’ve put them down on the page. So, without further ado, let’s kick off with the first twenty, shall we? Alrighty then.
1. Original Star Wars trilogy
Oh, look, and already he’s cheating and sticking three films down as one. Well, in the case of these films, when I say Star Wars, I’m referring to these three pretty interchangeably. I’ve already written about these before so let’s just say that this are the films I know the best on this list by a long way and I still enjoy watching them after all these years.
I don’t think it’s possible to underestimate how much Ridley Scott defined the look of sci-fi films for quite some time. It’s also a great combination of sci-fi and horror – it’s the archetypal “unknown beastie picks off small trapped group one by one” type story and it’s still great.
I struggled to narrow down the Bond films to stick on this list but decided I had to go with this one. It’s where the Bond template really takes hold for the first time – world-dominating supervillain, lady with rude name, borderline sci-fi gadgetry – it’s all there. And also for the “No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die” line.
4. An American Werewolf In London
John Landis used to make great films. This is one of them. A horror comedy that’s both genuinely funny and genuinely horrific and with some great practical special effects by Rick Baker that still stand up today. CGI, eat your heart out.
5. Monty Python And The Holy Grail
I honestly can’t decide whether I prefer this or Life of Brian so have given up trying to decide. They’re both brilliant, basically.
6. Star Trek 2: The Wrath Of Khan
I like a good Star Trek film and this is the best, if only for the reason that The Shatner’s acting is so powerful in this one, that he actually acts himself cross-eyed at one point (“Khaaaaaaaaaan!”).
7. The Producers
This was a slow burn one for me. The first time I watched it, I thought it was OK. The more I watched it, the more I realised just how brilliant it is. Gene Wilder’s performance is probably my favourite thing about it. Mel Brooks started so well. Where did it go wrong? (Oh yeah, Spaceballs, that’s where.)
8. Batman: The Movie
I like the Tim Burton films, I really like the Christopher Nolan versions but none of them are anywhere near as entertaining as the original 60s version. The highlight? Adam West trying to dispose of a cartoon-style bomb (complete with fizzing fuse) and encountering ducks swimming, children playing and nuns strolling at every opportunity (a sequence that was referenced in the recent Wallace and Gromit short, A Matter Of Loaf And Death).
9. Little Shop Of Horrors
Great tunes, great puppetry and Steve Martin as a sadistic, gas-sniffing dentist. What more could you want?
Another film that I could never imagine finding tiresome. It’s probably Bill Murray’s finest moment (that said, I’ll watch him in pretty much anything) and is still a fantastically quotable film.
Wait a minute, you had Alien and now you’re sticking the sequel on here too? Yes, for entirely different reasons. While the first one may have been a claustrophobic horror-thriller, this is an unashamed and unrelenting action film and is one of those rare occasions where a sequel is as good as if not better than the original.
The very opposite of a feelgood film (unless you watch the 90 minute American TV “Love Conquers All” version) and a film that very nearly make it to a release. I love the world that Terry Gilliam crafts – it’s his distinctive style that shines through.
My least favourite genre (somewhat unsurprisingly) would be that of the romantic comedy (or romcom, if you want to get smacked in the face for using a twee term). So you can imagine my surprise when one of my favourite films turned out to be a French romantic comedy. I know, quelle surprise, eh? Audrey Tautou is lovely, though. Mmmmm.
14. The Blues Brothers
John Landis again, this time with a musical road movie. Great tunes, great car chases and great performances for Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.
15. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
I’m a big fan of Charlie Kaufman’s writing. Sometimes it doesn’t quite work but it’s always interesting and full of ideas. This is his finest to date (I haven’t watched Synecdoche, New York yet) with a surprisingly likeable performance from Jim Carrey who only falls back to Carrey-isms a couple of times.
16. Raiders Of The Lost Ark
It’s Indiana Jones. It’s the first and the best. ‘Nuff said.
17. Back To The Future
A time travel movie that makes sense, always a bonus, and this, along with Doctor Who, is probably responsible for my obsession with time travel-y stuff.
18. The Muppet Movie
I’m always in the mood to watch this movie and, no matter what I may be in at the start, the mood I am in by the end is always cheerful. Anyone who isn’t instantly cheered by this has a heart made of some sort of flinty substance.
19. Singin' In The Rain
A surprisingly post-modern film being that’s a film about film-making. Also, some great tunes again. (You may be noticing that there a fair few musicals on here – I was brought up watching a lot of them and have a strange fondness for them. It’s like putting on an album but with pictures and stuff.)
Surely you can’t be serious? I am serious and don’t call me Shirley. Well, I’ve already blogged about this one so no big surprise there.
There’s your first batch. Some glaring omissions so far, you’re possibly thinking. Well, we’ve got 80 more to go...
Sunday, 29 March 2009
Yes, it's that time of year where the clocks change and you wake up on a Sunday feeling robbed and cheated and just that little bit closer to Monday than you really hoped to be. I mean, OK, all I was going to do with that hour was sleep probably but I like sleeping. I've been doing it for years and I've really got my technique down pat now. The snoring, the drooling, the taking up of the whole bed in a diagonal fashion - I've mastered the lot (no, I don't understand why I'm still single, either).
I mean it's conceivable that I may have used that time for some other purpose but, in all honesty, that would probably only have been sitting around in my pants and eating packets of crisps (I mean, with this level of classy behaviour, surely I should have been snapped up years ago?)
So, in conclusion then, can whoever stole my hour please return it? If you're worried about repercussions then simply leave it anonymously on the doorstep and we'll take the matter no further. (Also, yes, ladies, I am available.)
Saturday, 28 March 2009
Friday, 27 March 2009
Dear Budding Evil Genius,
Below is a basic checklist to help your scheme for world domination run smoothly and without interference from a suave, clean-cut intelligence agent with a drink problem or a do-gooder in long, brightly-coloured underwear. Make sure you have the following items in place before your scheme begins and soon the world should be yours, all yours
1. Endless supply of disposable minions in matching jumpsuits
2. Razor for keeping baldy head nice and shiny
3. White cat
4. Humming Brazilian marching ants (optional)
5. Henchman with ridiculously inconvenient gimmicky weapon
6. Your own multi-national company to fund expensive lasers and endless supply of minions
7. Winged monkeys for entertainment purposes
8. Patented diabolical laugh / sneer combo
9. Laboratory with bubbling test tubes and one of those machines that crackles up and down with static electricity
10. Tendency to talk in monologues (and finish off with number 8)
11. Preference for wearing black
12. A goatee or a scar (or both)
13. Plentiful supply of nemesis-killing materials and a willingness to use them
14. Overlarge decorative aquarium for pet sharks (also useful for nemesis devouring - multi-functional)
15. Secret headquarters hidden in a volcano or an orbiting space station or in a parallel dimension
- Extract from That Baldy Fella’s Big Bad Book of Supervillains (2006)
Thursday, 26 March 2009
There is an invention, widely used in our modern world and currently available from many a retail emporium. It's not a startling new innovation. It has been in existence for the best part of one hundred years, as it naturally developed alongside the technology it supports. They are available in a wide variety of shapes, be they circumaural or supra-aural, and are driven in various ways – dynamic, electrostatic and so on and so forth. Yes, there are some risks involved in excessive use of this device but there are inherent risks in excessive use of anything (the clue's in the word there – "excessive").
In basic terms, it's a pair of transducers that receive an electrical signal and converts said signal into an audible sound wave. These transducers are placed in close proximity to the aural cavity and provide the recipient with musical or speech-based entertainment.
They're called headphones. And, if you're listening to your fucking shit music on the bus, you should damn well use them instead of inflicting your awful musical taste on the rest of us in an irritating and tinny fashion.
Wednesday, 25 March 2009
Oh, London Transport, You Make My Heart Sing
I have a joy in my heart that cannot be contained. It is pure and simple and must be shared with others. Over the last month or so, I have been exposed to a delight which is known to many - the cheery commute from the sun-kissed South side of the river into town.
I have not been idle on my commute, oh no, my friends. I have utilised this time to compose a series of heartfelt and uplifting songs designed to show people the wonder that is my weekday journey to and from the place that is known as work. I'll share with you now a brief teaser of some of the moving tracks you can expect to experience on what will fast become, I'm sure, a commuter favourite.
1. Overcrowded Northern Line Sweatbox Blues
The title very much speaks for itself on this one. Here's a flavour of the lyrics:-
It's cold outside
And I'm all wrapped up
But get shoved on the Tube
And the sweat is gonna drop
I got the "cold-outside-so-all-wrapped-up-but-too-hot-when-I-get-on-the-Tube" overcrowded Northern Line sweatbox blues
2. Die, Die, All You London Transport Motherfuckers Must Die
A tribute to the professionalism and dedication of all our highly skilled, fully trained and career motivated London Transport staff. Gentlemen and ladies, I raise two fingers in salute to you.
3. Stand Behind The Yellow Line Means You, Too
A tender and touching ballad to those free spirits and wild-eyed loners who are blazing a trail and not following the rules set down by "The Man". Includes such topics as delaying the train for everyone by sticking your head between the doors and barging to get on before other people have disembarked.
4. Get Out Of My Bloody Way, Johnny Foreigner
A humourous and jaunty little ditty which also has a more serious underlying message about tolerance and respect for those of different nationalities and cultures:-
I don't care where you stand
With your damn map in hand
Just get the bloody hell back to Johnny-Foreign-land
Just doing my bit to spread a little bit of peace and harmony to peoples of all colours and creeds (except the Welsh, obviously).
5. Everyone Except Me Is A Cock
A rousing finale in which the love bursting in my heart finally overflows and I explain at great, great length exactly why everyone else who is travelling, has travelled and will ever travel on public transport is a massive tool who really should just fuck off out of it. Oh, and they're standing in my way, too. (Charts and diagrams will be provided in the liner notes).
Hopefully, this little musical tribute to a great infrastructure of our proud nation will be accepted as my chance to give something back to a system which has meant so much to so many. I'm thinking of calling it "Buy It Or I Stamp On This Guy's Neck"...
Tuesday, 24 March 2009
It's also extremely unusual for a sci-fi based series in that it gives prominence to two subjects normally ignored or dealt with only superficially in the genre:- religion and politics. Given that science fiction is traditionally a reflection and extrapolation of current ideas and society, it seems odd that it's taken so long for a show to deal with two of the fundamental issues of society in a mature way. Maybe not, I guess, when visual sci-fi and fantasy (TV and film) has typically been a lot more simplistic than literary sci-fi and fantasy**.
I'm not saying, however, that this series has been perfect - far from it. As a series, it has definitely suffered from pacing issues and has often resorted to what feels like filler material at times. It sometimes also seems to make occasional leaps in storytelling logic, in which characters come to a conclusion without seeming to have based that on anything in particular or make decisions that everyone suddenly seem to go along with. The last two episodes have a couple of moments like this - I'm placing my comments on those in a footnote for anyone who's not yet seen it ands wishes to do so unspoiled***
When it is good, though, it's one of the best drama series out there - that's right, not just sci-fi but drama in general. It's not afraid to take the unexpected paths and put the characters that they've been carefully building up through the wringer. Being a war-based series, too, it throws in some fantastic action sequences - all the more impressive on the small screen. Overall, it strives to do something different and daring and take a chance rather than keep returning to the status quo - it's definitely a serial rather than a series. Not the sort of show you can dip in and out of. Plus no-one quite does cliffhangers like these guys - there have been plenty of jaw-dropping moments along the way, not least because you get the feeling that no one character is sacred...
I also have to say that I think the producers of the show absolutely made the right decision in bringing the show to a close with its fourth season. While it's fairly clear that they didn't have an ending in mind from Day One (and have, in fact, crowbarred stuff in this season to make it all fit together), the ending they came up with was extremely fitting and representative of the show - it had moments that were bleak and moments that were full of hope; it didn't give any easy answers; it had some things which didn't quite make sense but also manged to tie up a lot of ongoing questions; and it left you thinking. All in all, what more can you ask for?
So, if you haven't seen it, would I recommend it to you? Absolutely. You might not take to it - I lent it to a sci-fi watching friend who just couldn't get into it - but I recommend giving it a try. Don't let thoughts of the original crappy series put you off (yeah, I was never much of a fan of the original) or, if you're someone who generally doesn't watch sci-fi, don't be put off by that, either. At it's core, it's a series about people struggling to survive and live their lives against nearly insurmountable odds - a fairly universal theme. (Sorry, that came out as a bit of a bad pun at the end there - not what I had in mind when I wrote it down.)
Farewell, Battlestar Galactica. It was quite a ride.
* OK, one of those hasn't transmitted yet but, as it's a flashback, it's pretty much just filler at this point.
** I'm generalising, of course, and there are naturally exceptions to this but, for the most part, this is the case.
*** Well, for starters, why is Hera the final hope for humanity and Cylons? How have we come to that decision? Also, it seems a little bit of a leap that all 39,000 or so remaining humans would give up technology to go and live like the Amish.
Monday, 23 March 2009
"But, Mr The Bald Fella," I have been asked, "for why do you carry an umbrella when your head is so shiny and devoid of hair-based accoutrements?"
"What a perfectly ridiculous question," reply I, in a supercilious fashion. "Just because I am of the follically-challenged amongst our society, this does not mean that I want to get a right good soaking. If anything, it's more irritating - there is no hair to retain any of the moisture so it runs straight off the bonce and into the peepers. Most vexatious."
All of which makes it doubly irritating that I managed to leave the umbrella lying dormant upon the bedroom floor this good morning and that the only moments in which the heavens chose to unleash their most fierce torrential downpour was during the ten minutes in which I was walking from the station to the front door. With a kind of tedious inevitability, as soon as I stepped inside the front door, the downward river stopped. Bloody, as they say, typical.
I better put newspaper in those shoes. They'll never dry out otherwise.
(Makes a nice counterpoint to last Monday's sunny afternoon and will no doubt prompt a "serves you bloody right" from those of you who were suffering similar weather.)
* Length of remainder may vary due to external and internal circumstances.
Sunday, 22 March 2009
Saturday, 21 March 2009
* As in Jim, not those vile little creatures that sang "Mmmbop". You're thinking of Hanson.
Friday, 20 March 2009
It was the first place that I regularly drank in which truly felt like a local. Many were the days spent sat in one of the corners, drinking cheap watered down pint after cheap watered down pint. I always knew that, whenever I went in, I was pretty much guaranteed to meet someone I knew. Being an ultimately worthless media-style student, my university week was not overly burdened with lectures and tutorials. This left time a-plenty to be wiled away putting the world to rights in The Dog's Bollocks (for such was the name of said bar, named, of course, by the student body with a sort of tedious inevitability).
It was kind of scuzzy and a bit cheap and tacky but it was comforting and familiar. Sure, we used to branch out and drink in other Ealing boozers from time to time but we always ended up back the DB's (well, it was cheaper and we were students). There was a second bar alongside it called Freddy's** but we didn't drink in there as much. Our home was The Dog's Bollocks and that was where we belonged.
I made a brief trip back there not long after we left university to film some bar scenes for a short film we were making at the time but haven't been back there since then (around about a decade ago now, I guess). I'm sure it's not the same place anymore - times change, people and places move on - but, seeing it up there on screen again pretty much exactly the way it used to be, has kept it alive again, if only for an afternoon.
So here's to The Dog's Bollocks - a home away from home and the place where most people knew my name. Cheers.
* Yes, the place what was responsible for films such as The Ladykillers and The Lavender Hill Mob. I actually used to have some of my lectures in Ealing Film Studios and our student radio station was broadcast from there (I used to do a show along with a couple of friends in the afternoons).
** After Freddy Mercury who used to be a student there back when it was a polytechnic
Thursday, 19 March 2009
His mind became encased in fog
The eyes, they did glaze
And now, lost in a haze
Through ideas, he did make a hard slog
See, he's written of things and of stuff
And is finding it really quite tough
Each and every day
To have new things to say
Without picking a dud or a duff
Still there really must be plenty more
From his brain upon which he could draw
It all bubbles away
Churning day after day
There must be something in the store...
Nope, all I've got is stupid rhymes. Ah, well.
Wednesday, 18 March 2009
The Fast Show
The Fast Show, created by Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson, was conceived to be sketches with just punchlines, cutting all the chaff and getting straight to the funny. I always enjoyed these ones from Paul Whitehouse as Rowley Birkin, QC, mainly for the feeling that there is actually a bit of a thread to the randomness in there somewhere if you listen hard enough...
Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews turned their hand back to sketches following the immense success of Father Ted (they'd initially started off as sketch writers for Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones before writing for Alexei Sayle) and came up with brilliantly absurd sketches for their show Big train. I like the simplicity of this one - just another mundane office argument....
Harry And Paul
Paul Whitehouse once again (I'm a big fan of his), this time back with his old partner Harry Enfield. Harry and Paul started out doing sketches together on Harry Enfield's Television Programme in the days prior to The Fast Show and have recently reunited to do the comedy thing once again. Their latest series was hit and miss but, when it hit, it was with gems such as this one which manages to be sinisterly filthy and yet utterly silly:-
Fry And Laurie
These two were a perfectly matched double act and their love of wordplay and nonsense shines through in this trip to a hardware store...
I've recently discovered this one thanks to David Cross' appearances on Arrested Development (which is one of the finest comedies of recent years). As with a lot of sketch shows, it is hit and miss but it's worth sticking with for sketches like this one:-
Well, I wasn't going to let a sketch blog slip past without a Python mention, was I? As soon as I was old enough to start appreciating "grown-up" comedy, my folks got me into these... and started me down the path of the lifelong comedy obsessive. To be honest, I struggled to pick out one for special attention so here - have some Cheese Shop:-
And the last word on this sketch-based blog will go to our guest speaker, the Reverend R Sleeker. Blessings be upon you all.
* You metric types will have to work that out for yourselves
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
I'll be happily wandering along the road or sitting on the train/bus/tube/irritating method of public transport of my choice when, all of sudden, that thing happens. You know the one. A something in your head collides with another something in your head and the idea starts to form. The inner voice begins to speak. The monologue or dialogue commences. And you think, "Yeah, this will be good. What a fascinating insight into whatever it is that the subject of the thing is going to be about. Top banana. I should write this one d- Oh, I don't have a pen or anything to write on. OK, I'll just remember really hard. Come on, brain, remember the things. Remember the stuff. Remember that bit that was wryly amusing and painted you in a terribly witty light. Remember. Reeeemeeeemmmmbebbeeerrrrrr."
And then I stop to cross the road or get off the train/bus/tube/irritating method of public transport of my choice. A new song comes into the brain via the ears. The brain shifts track and settles into a new tangent. Probably about what to have to lunch. Or if I did actually remember to send that email last night. And so, the something disengages from the something else and the idea is no more.
I lose more blogs that way.
Monday, 16 March 2009
Outside. And I've miscalculated. It's really warm. This is a nicely unexpected surprise. It's the day off and it's glorious. This calls for summertime music. The iPod has been primed recently with many new, weird and wonderful things. Only now, I am beginning to be paralysed by choice. Aha, sudden inspiration. I have two albums on there by Louis Prima**. They'll do nicely. Jazzy, snappy, be-boppy fun - just the thing for a warm and sunny day. I see lounging about in my immediate future but first things first. I must go clothes shopping.
I hate clothes shopping. A necessity. I have to wear clothes therefore I have to buy clothes. Use my usual smash-and-grab tactics. The trying on of the clothing is even more depressing than usual. Realise that a recent run of increased junk food and less exercise is giving the old spare tyre that delightful "yoghurt in a bin-liner" look. Put the T-shirts back. Just the jeans, thanks, Mr Clothes Shop Bloke. Oh, and a quick stop off to buy books and DVDs I don't need. Ah, that's better.
So the afternoon is mine and the day is still balmy. There is only one thing for it - to the park! Essential gear for the expedition - iPod, notebook and pen, book for the reading. Sorted, job done.
Just under two months ago, I was making this same journey to the same park for sledging and snowball fights. Now it's time for sitting in the sun. Gotta love that London weather. Also, this seems to be becoming a theme of my Monday lieu days. I resist the urge to buy an ice cream from the ice cream van en route this time.
Into the park now. Sun still shining. People dotted here and there, enjoying the day. The music shifts. It's Louis Armstrong Sings Disney Hits The Satchmo Way now***. It seems that today's music is linked by Louis' and Disney. Odd little bit of synchronicity there.
A brief spell sat at the top of the hill looking out over London - the Maritime Museum, the Naval College, the Thames. All present and correct and looking good in the brightness of the day. The park is comforting and calming yet at the same time (and a little paradoxically) sweeping and epic and historic. I feel that surge of simple love you get for a place you know oh-so-well and yet somehow have not grown tired of.
OK, time to stretch out. Tree found, body parked at a leaning angle and notebook unpacked. Thoughts flow from pen to page while the sounds of park life continue on in the background; a gentle rise and fall of conversation, laughs and shouts. Satchmo is crooning Chim Chim Cheroo in the ears and a smile is inescapable. Then the writing is done and it's time to read. Book out, pages opened and other worlds entered. The day spins on and I am content.
Summer might be a little way off yet but spring is beginning to be sprung.
* Temples upwards excepted.
** Most famous these days for being the voice of King Louis, the King of the Swingers, in the Jungle Book.
*** I did say that my music choices were weird and wonderful.
Sunday, 15 March 2009
Part 1 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIOiPIIIllE
Part 2 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIDjXB5GGtE
Saturday, 14 March 2009
Friday, 13 March 2009
"You may think you know Mr the Fella. By day he is a blogging film maker, filming himself blogging, then blogging about filming himself blogging, then going to the pub. But that’s not all there is to him, oh no. For Mr the Fella has a secret identity, one I shall reveal to you here.
By night, Mr the Fella is…
Defender of the weak and the innocent on the mean streets of London, Tarquin Wonderstorm bravely misses Eastenders to protect the city’s residents.
Costume: The cloak of a Pearly King. And a magnificent head of hair. Like a lion’s mane, only magnificenter.
Weapons: A goatee that shoots paralysing poison into the eyes of his foes. A lasso of electrified jellied eels.
Catchphrase: Gawd luv a duck, yer nicked!
Sidekick: Dick Van Dyke, who has a large and deadly broom. Ahem.
Nemeses (nemesii?): Dirty Den, Boris Johnson. Both have been foiled in their evil schemes many a time buy our Tarquin. Although Johnson did seem suspiciously fond of the eel treatment. Allegedly.
Love interest: Audrey Tatou. When he wins a fight, she tilts her head to one side and looks adorable, giving him a reason to keep fighting the good fight.
Theme song: My Old Man’s A Dustman.
So remember, good people of London, Tarquin Wonderstorm is out there keeping you safe.
No need to thank him, it’s just what he does."
Editor's Endnote:- I'm a little startled. My secret is revealed. The cockney world may well be in deadly peril...
*http://ramblyrambly.blogspot.com/ Fear not, though, if you still want to guest blog, there is still time to send me something. All the time in the world.... I only put a deadline on it to get arses in gear.
** Apparently, that's a word that people use. Hateful sounding, isn't it?
Thursday, 12 March 2009
In a nutshell:- They tell me to hand over more money and I crack open the wallet*
The Basics:- The world of comics is a wonderful thing. People in stupid outfits beating the living snot out of other people in stupid outfits.** Marvellous stuff. However, there is a dark evil that lurks in the happy heart of comicland. It is called the "Crossover" and it saps the cash reserves of many an unsuspecting (and suspecting) fanboy. For those of you not in the comics know (which, quite wisely, is most of you), a crossover is quite simply a story that continues from one character's comic into another, forcing you to buy a title you may not normally buy if you want to get the rest of the story. It is cunning in its simplicity.
Why's it So Rubbish Then?:- Because, despite knowing that it's generally going to be rubbish, I fall for it every time. "Why do you keep falling for it, my gullible, baldy friend?", I hear you ask. Because I'm borderline obsessive compulsive, of course. I. Need. To. Know.*** So I buy it and, more often than not, it turns out to be disjointed (because it's written by many different writers and illustrated by many different artists), overlong (because they want to wring as much money as possible out of it, not only on a monthly basis but also when they collect it into many volumes) and ultimately disappointing ("Nothing Will Ever Be The Same!......Well, until we put it all back the way it was in a couple of months so we can do this all again in two years time").
Surely Some Of Must be Good:- Occasionally, yes, you do get a crossover that can entertain. My personal favourite being a Batman one, No Man's Land, in which the characters spent a year in a semi-destroyed Gotham City cut-off from the mainland after a devastating earthquake. All very character-based stuff. But, as with all these things, it got fixed and then mostly forgotten about.
So We Should Avoid This Thing Of Which You Speak At All Costs?:- If you're not a comics reader, well, that should be pretty easy. In fact, you're already doing it so well done to you. For myself, I know I should. I really know I should. But, as soon as summer rolls around and there's a theme in the air with words like "Secret", "Crisis" or "War" thrown in, well, you can be pretty sure that this fool and his money will very soon be parted.
* This is also known as George Lucas Syndrome. There is no known cure.
** My superhero character, the Living Snot, was rejected by every publisher on most grounds of taste and decency.
*** Well, that and the fact that, being English, I naturally crave disappointment (as Bill Bailey once said).
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
In a nutshell:- People who are famous for no other reason than the fact that they are famous.
The Basics:- We've all seen it. People who are famous simply because they're in some way connected with another famous person (in all likelihood someone who is only tangentially famous themselves in the first place). People who are famous because they've been on a TV programme that invites them to be famous. Most of all, though, people who are famous because their daddy owns a hotel chain and they once basically appeared as an unpaid porn star.**
Why's It So Rubbish Then?:- Because it's a symptom of a deeper problem in today's society. Not just the celebration of mediocrity over talent (although it is definitely this as well) but the overwhelming idea that you don't just have the ability to become famous for no real effort, you also somehow deserve it. And that, quite frankly, makes my blood boil. There are plenty of talented and intelligent people out there (and many on this here site) who are infinitely more deserving of fame and adulation for what they can do, be it acting, writing, singing, composing or any other skill or talent they might possess.
Surely Some Of It Must Be Good:- Nope. There is nothing to be commended about the promotion of mediocrity and, in some cases, idiocy (possibly congenital) over true ability, particularly when that ability is combined with a work ethic and dedication that goes unrewarded. There are talented people out there going unrecognised while we have to put up with some gobshite who lets themselves be filmed being mouthy and scratching their arse for 38 weeks getting plastered over every available media outlet.
So We Should Avoid This Thing Of Which You Speak At All Costs?:- You can do the only thing available to you that will change this state of affairs:- go and give your attention to someone deserving instead. And then, if you enjoyed that person, spread the word to other people you think will enjoy it. Even better, go out and do something creative yourself. Write, paint, draw, sing, compose, sculpt, create. Baby steps, baby steps.
* Unless I decide that the Dark Side really is more fun and embrace the way of the misanthropic curmudgeon on a regular basis
** Too subtle?
Tuesday, 10 March 2009
Terrifying, isn't it?
3. I Laugh A Lot
And it's generally at stuff which is filthy or just plain wrong or both. Preferably both. But preferably filthy. Or wrong. (I could go on like this for some time. But I won't. Or will I? No, I won't. But will I? No, OK, I'll stop now. But have I really stopped? Yes.)
4. I Am Loyal
You're my friend? Then friends we are. And this doesn't mean that we have to keep checking in with each other to see how we are every five minutes. When we want to spend time with each other, we will. And when we need each other to be there, we will. And we absolutely will not complain or whinge about not contacting each other. We'll just be pleased to see each other when we do catch up. Because that's how it works. End of story.
5. I am A Massive Geek
I don't mean that I'm a geek that is very big. Well, I am that too but that's not what I meant. I'm a fully-paid-up card-carrying** geek. But not just in the comic-collecting sci-fi-watching sense. Oh no, my friend. My geekiness extends beyond that into the realms of film and comedy and fully embraces the obscure and arcane. In fact, I'm probably slightly more obsessive about comedy than I am about sci-fi. I know that doesn't really come across in my tediously factual and dustily dry daily postings but it's well true.
So there you have it. Stuff about me what is rather spiffing. But you probably could have guessed that already. At this point, I am supposed to "tag" people to then go off and post this themselves but because I'm:-
a) lazy; and
b) really lazy,
I can't be arsed. This will be covered in the follow up post, 23 Things About Yourself That You Should Probably Do Something About Because They Bug The Crap Out Of Everyone Else. (Unfortunately, the first item on the list is "I procrastinate too much" so I probably won't get around to it.)
* http://ramblyrambly.blogspot.com/ for you Facebookers
** I don't actually carry a card with "Geek" on it, that's just an expression. But, now that I think about it, maybe I should. It would save a lot of time. Hmmm, might be time to unpack the laminator.
"We suddenly realised that all these ex-bankers were just sitting around and mostly wanking themselves silly," said professional Prime Minister impersonator Gordon Brown. "We all thought that it seemed such a waste of all those destructive tendencies which they'd been exercising for so long. Then I thought, "I know, teaching. That's not really a proper job, it it? I mean, look at all the holidays they get. We should get some of those poor unfortunate banking types a couple of cushy teaching posts. They'd love that." Everyone else thought this was brills and that I was the bestest for even thinking of it. Which I suppose I am."
The new proposal involves reducing teacher training to six months in an effort to appeal to City types with the attention span of a fruitfly; however, this could be reduced even further if you're willing to inject some cash into the economy. Offers start at 70 quid but if you're willing to bail out a national bank, that would be smashing, too.
(Yeah, I've been reading The Daily Mash a bit too much recently. I'm starting to think in their stories... and am a bit surprised they haven't done this one.)
Monday, 9 March 2009
1. Sofa Snoozing
I have noticed that recently I'm able to fall asleep in front of the TV more easily. Normally this would happen whilst too drunk to be constructively watching the television and would involve coming home, opening unnecessary booze (to be discovered three-quarters untouched the next morning), putting on a DVD and waking on the sofa six hours later to discover the DVD menu looping round and irritating the neighbours. Now it happens when I'm "just having a sit in front of the TV for five-
2. You Call That Music?
For a little while now, I've been looking at the charts in a bit of incomprehension and beginning to understand that feeling Ma and Pa had of "Who the bloody hell's that?" when sitting down to watch Top Of The Pops of a Thursday evening. Lady GaGa? Nope, don't get it. Katy Perry? But she's so dull. Why so popular?* Even the bands I used to like have begun to bore me. Kings Of Leon? When did they turn into Stereophonics? In my day, mutter, mutter, gibber, gibber...
3. The Front Door Sign
For many a year, my mother had a sign attached to the front door which read "No Jehovah's Witnesses - and we MEAN it!" (and also said "No takeaway leaflets" in smaller letters underneath). I've begun to contemplate the addition of this very sign, having been drawn to the door on my few lie-in days by some holy roller attempting to peddle their faith in my face. If you do suffer from a type of religion that you seem to believe needs spreading door to door like some sort of contagion then please go and see a priest about it. I, in my dressing gown, have no help for you.
4. Memory Like A, Er....
There was actually something specific which I did earlier which prompted me to think about writing this in the first place. but I cannot for the life of me remember what it was. Which is, in itself, another symptom of the transformation.
So there you have it. It has begun. It's going to be kind of like that scene in An American Werewolf In London. Only with less werewolfyness. And more comfortable clothing. Possibly one of those blankets that heats up. That'll be nice. Mmm.
* Oh, yeah, the massive nawks permanently on display. That'll be it.
Sunday, 8 March 2009
Please ensure that all guest blog submissions* are forwarded to That Baldy Fella by no later than midnight (GMT) on Friday, 13th March 2009. Any submissions received after this time will be stapled to a takeaway menu and thrown in the bin. The judge's decision is final. I am the judge. Kind of like Judge Dredd but without the cool gun and bike or the ability to issue on-the-spot executions for things like littering and stuff like that which is probably for the best as I'd just spend my time doing that instead. No correspondence will be entered into. I'm not even sure what that bit means but they always say that in the small print, don't they?
So get cracking. I just want to tell you all good luck, we're all counting on you.
* And gurst blog submissions
The first is for the song "Judge Me Then Judge Yourself" and features many of Lewisham's finest dancing their little masked socks off**. The second is for the song "See You Next Tuesday" and features some fine puppet work and design (and also features some choice, if censored, language so you may want to be careful there).
* And, yes, I am repeating myself again if you're a Nick Nack Lifer but, hey, it's the weekend. You're probably out drinking / in recovering from drinking anyway
** Yes, I'm in there. I'm wearing a cardboard cut-out of my brother's face whilst dancing (intentionally) badly# so, if you know what he looks like, you can narrow it down.
# Hard to judge on that one, to be honest, it is a fine line.
Saturday, 7 March 2009
It came to my attention the other day that I posted this back way back when nobody was really reading this blog and I'd hate to deny you good, good people the chance to see it. So here it is - the trailer for my (seemingly permanently) upcoming feature film, Incidental Weekend. Enjoy...
* Well, strong guideline rather than rule, really.
Friday, 6 March 2009
In a nutshell:- One of the most celebrated graphic novels makes it to the big screen. Will it be any good?
The Basics:- This 24-year-old graphic novel has been kicking around in development hell for almost as long as it's been in existence. Directors such as Terry Gilliam and Darren Aronofsky have tried and failed to make a celluloid version out of it. It's been labelled as unfilmable being that it's a story about the twilight of superheroes in an alternate America where Nixon never left office and that it's both a study of Eighties Cold War anxieties as well a deconstruction of decades of superhero comics. Not necessarily something which would translate easily to film - especially as this requires condensing the book's storyline to fit a suitable running time. So has director Zack Snyder manged to pull it off against the odds? Yes and no...
The Good:- Snyder's visual flair and attention to detail cannot be denied. He has lovingly created the look and feel of the comic exactly up on screen and a lot of the visuals he's created are pretty stunning. The opening title sequence set to Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changing" is fantastic and sets up the alternate 1985 that the movie takes place in. It's no wonder that artist and co-creator Dave Gibbons heartily endorsed it - his work has been very much used as a storyboard to bring the visuals to life (in much the same fashion as Snyder did for 300 and Robert Ropdriguez / Frank Miller did for Sin City). In terms of the cast, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian and Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach steal the show. They're the most fascinating characters in the story and the two actors vividly bring them to life (there's a strong hint of Robert Downey Jr. about Jeffrey Dean Morgan**). Billy Crudup has the unenviable task of playing a man divorced from human emotion in Dr Manhattan while Patrick Wilson provides able support as the retiring Nite Owl who rediscovers a little of his inner hero. The only disappointment is Malin Akerman in the acting stakes who comes across as fairly wooden a lot of the time (this could be down to some of the material she has to work with, however). On the plus side, she's very pretty and wears a PVC outfit. Mmmmmm. It also moves at a reasonable pace. It certainly didn't feel like I'd just sat through a two hour and forty five minute film (although I did have to shift about in the seat a bit - they're not overly comfortable for that length of time).
The Bad:- The fact that it's such a direct translation (albeit with some omissions and a sensible and satisfying alteration to the ending to make it work better as a film***) actually works against it to an extent. Some of the dialogue feels oddly stilted as it's lifted directly form the comic and there are a lot of exposition heavy moments to try and fit in as much as the material from the comic as possible yet still try and make sense out of it. Being very familiar with the source material, it's difficult to know if it will make complete sense to someone who's coming to this fresh. Also, because the film is following the story structure of a printed work, it feels quite disjointed and it could be difficult to follow the main narrative thrust due to the various tangents it goes off on. The fact that Snyder is very much a visual director also works against him to an extent as his characterisation falls a little flat in some cases. He seems so concerned with accurately reproducing what's on page that development of characters seems to have been left out or, worse still, just not considered important. Having read interviews where he seems to mostly discuss how "cool" it looks, I sadly suspect the latter.
The Verdict:- All in all, though, I'd have to say that is probably as successful an adaptation you're going to get of something which really isn't intended to be made into a film. It's not perfect and it certainly has its flaws but it's still a fascinating take on the superhero film and definitely a visual treat. I would say, though, that while it may be more adult than something like The Dark Knight in terms of onscreen violence****, nudity and sexual situations, The Dark Knight still has the edge in terms of character. If you've become tired of the standard superhero fare that clogs up the multiplexes these days, though, give this a try. It's definitely something different to the norm. Well worth a watch(men). Sorry, I couldn't resist.
* Yep, it turns out that the cinema which is 15 minutes walk away now has an IMAX as well. When did that happen? Was it always there and I'd never noticed? Must pay more attention...
** All these people have names that are much too long.
*** The intent and impact of the ending hasn't been changed but the specifics of what that ending is have (if that makes any sense - you basically get to the same ending but with a slightly different cause)
**** And there is some stomach churning violence in there but, then again, there is in the original book.
Thursday, 5 March 2009
You can embrace any topic you so wish but anything that is flattering, complimentary or flat out offering bribery will naturally appeal to the judge more. The judge is me. That may not have been obvious. Just thought I'd clarify. So that we're clear. Good.
The rules? Rules? We don't need no stinking rules. Just send me what you want to post (via the handy contact details on my profile page or via your nearest convenient social networking site) and post it I shall, warts and all**. There will naturally be pimping out of your own blog in these pages in return for your wordy efforts. Everyone loves more readers.
So there you go. Fancy taking over?*** Get scribbling then. If I get enough, I'll have an official Guest Blog Week. I don't know what makes it official. Maybe I'll get a man in a fancy hat with a giant pair of scissors to cut a ribbon and declare it open. That's usually the sort of thing officials do. And minor D-list celebrities from reality TV. And ex-pop stars. And ex-soap stars. And ex-soap stars turned pop stars. I've digressed a bit. What was the point again?
* OK, nice, clean blog might be stretching things a little bit seeing as I have the occasional tendency to pottymouthitis but you get the general idea.
** Try not to send me actual warts. That will not sway the judges opinion on your favour. Although offers of lager, comics, sex or lagered-up comical sex may weight matters to your advantage.
*** I know who you are.
In a nutshell:- What if popular Victorian fantasy characters has banded together as a comic-book style superteam?
The Basics:- Alan Moore is quite the legend in the world of comics. You may well be wondering why I haven't written about his much-praised graphic novel Watchmen. Well, everyone's already twatting on about this one at more than great length so I thought it would be best to give some of the beardy wizard's other work a bit of a look in. This one has a great conceit behind it - Mina Murray, Allan Quatermain, Henry Jekyll/Edward Hyde, Captain Nemo and the Invisible Man are all brought together to tackle a fiendish foreign menace threatening to besmirch the good old Empire.
Why's It So Good?:- It's a simple idea - old literary characters teaming up superhero style - but it's done with a genuine affectation for and obvious deep knowledge of the source material. Volumes 1 and 2 are fairly straightforward, involving the team in a diabolical plot by Fu Manchu and H.G. Wells' Martian invasion of Earth respectively but it's the Black Dossier that really elevates it into something different. Combining many different text styles (and even a Tijuana bible insert and a 3D section with 3D glasses), it provides a far deeper history to the League and is very much more than "just" a comic book.
Surely Some Of It Must Be Rubbish:- The comic? No. But the film, oh, the film... Moore has traditionally distanced himself from any film adaptations and he's quite right to, particularly in this case. It's a prime example of taking a great concept and tweaking every possible thing you could in order to make it a hideous car smash. Allan Quatermain in the comic? A washed up opium addict whose glory days are well behind him. In the film? A cool and wise-cracking Sean Connery (playing Sean Connery as always). Mina Murray in the comic? A physically and emotionally scarred divorcee trying to escape the memories of her experience with a vampire. In the film? A sexy leather clad vampire lady.What makes it all the more disappointing is the adaptation was penned by comic scribe James Robinson (who gave us the brilliant Starman which I wrote about yesterday - nice link there).
So We Should Seek Out This Thing Of Which You Speak?:- The comics? Most definitely as you'll get the story as well as the scratchily great artwork by Kevin O'Neill. The film? No. Just no. Don't do it. It's awful. Avoid. (I'm not a fan of the film. Can you tell?)
So, seeing as we've come to Alan Moore, Watchmen's out tomorrow and only Anna is still bothering to read these anymore, we come to the end of comics week. What delights are in store for us tomorrow then? I don't really know. The usual round of inanity, probably. Come back and we'll all find out together. It'll be a spiffing romp, old sticks.